Panic is not a Cure for the Coronavirus

The Coronavirus isn’t a race based illness. I feel like some news stories should lead with this tidbit of information. It is true that the outbreak began in China, but it is crazy (not to mention hurtful and racist) to translate this into avoiding Chinese establishments in cities all over the world.


I live in Winnipeg, MB where there are currently, exactly zero confirmed cases of the Coronavirus and yet some people have been avoiding Chinese run establishments since the outbreak began to make headline news at the beginning of 2020.

I understand that people are scared and that looking for a scapegoat is part of human pack mentality, but that doesn’t make it less biggoted or wrong.


People are desperate to hear and soak up every ounce of information (or misinformation) about the potential spread of the Coronavirus, which has prompted school divisions (and many other organizations) to send letters out with a few words of advice for people who are looking for ways to keep themselves safe.


As a teacher and a parent, I am not sure whether or not to laugh when I read the advice sent home with my children. Frequent hand washing, coughing or sneezing into elbows, staying a metre away from anyone who is sick and staying home to prevent the spread of disease are all recommendations that I agree with in principle.


The problem is that most of them are difficult to do in real life. The nearest sink I can use to wash my hands when I am at work isn’t even on the same floor as my classroom. Not to mention that no one would be able to learn anything if 400 kids were leaving class to go wash their hands everytime they picked their nose, rubbed their eyes or put their hands or fingers in their mouths.


I’m not a visual person, but if I need to laugh, I try and imagine all the kids in my school carrying around metre sticks to try to gage how far away they should be from anyone who might sniffle or sneeze.


Staying home to prevent the spread of illness is also good in theory but difficult in practice. If my own kids knew that they would get to stay home from school if they were anything less than 100%, I’m pretty sure that two of them would manifest a hint of a headache or a cough everyday.


If we are all going to survive the Coronavirus, I feel like the best piece of advice is one that I haven’t seen on any notices or newsfeeds. It is a piece of advice that I actually think is important in all parts of life, and especially when there is fear involved. Are you ready? OK, here it is:

Breathe, slow down and think for yourself.


I know it sounds simple, but these little steps can be the difference between discretion and disaster. In this age of social media, people don’t even need to physically come together to enjoy the stupidity associated with mob mentality. If your source for information is FB, Twitter or Instagram (or maybe worse, Fox News) then before you act, stop and think about whether your actions make sense.


Buying ridiculous amounts of hand sanitizer, protective masks and truck loads of toilet paper will not keep you safe from the Coronavirus. Avoiding chow mein and pizza because China and Italy are in lockdown might give you a sense of control, but at the end of the day will have zero impact on how likely you are to get sick.


I get it, it is scary. As someone with older parents and a suppressed immune system (not to mention having a job that puts me in germ central everyday), I know that the risks can be real.

But, I also know that panicking won't help. Panic will further elevate your stress levels and therefore weaken your immune and cardiovascular systems. Panic can feel strangely euphoric, but in reality upping your stress is putting yourself more at risk.


I can understand if you feel like my first piece of advice (breathe, slow down and think for yourself) is just not enough. Sometimes it can feel good to have something to actively do to feel like you are protecting yourself and your family from invisible germ invaders. So, before I go, I have one more suggestion (that is not new, revolutionary or original); eat more vegetables. Sweet potato latkes for breakfast, kale chips for a snack, broccoli and hummus (with loads of garlic) for lunch and a quinoa salad with every vegetable you can imagine for dinner and your immune system will be ready to put up a fight no matter which virus comes to call.

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